The discovery that lithium treatment at blastula stages can induce axis formation suggested that it might act by respecifying the cytoplasmic rearrangement-generated dorsoventral pattern, so that ventral cells behave like their dorsal counterparts. We have studied the effects of Li+ treatment on the spatial layout of the cell-group movements of gastrulation to see whether this is the case. We find that involution of the chordamesoderm and associated archenteron roof is retarded by Li+, an effect which does not suggest dorsal respecification. However, in both migration of the leading edge mesoderm and convergent extension of the marginal zone, ventral regions clearly do show dorsal-type movement. Because of this, and because of examples where disruption of involution and effects on axis differentiation do not correlate, we propose that failure of involution represents a distinct effect of Li+ involving disruption of mechanical relationships at the blastopore. Thus archenteron formation poorly reflects the dorsoventral pattern. Extension of sandwich explants of the ventral marginal zone is proposed as a reliable quantitative assay for alterations to the dorsoventral pattern.

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